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Friday, November 1, 2013

Communication Creates Higher Cognitive Models for Team Building


Workplace communication and cross-culture interaction can help foster greater levels of collaborative effort. A paper by Huber & Lews (2011) highlights how heuristics and bias are a platform for first understanding others but additional information creates stronger cognitive models. It is these models within groups or across groups that adjust overtime to create mutual development. 

When individuals understand each other’s cognitive models they create cross-understanding (Huber & Lewis, 2010). Cross-understanding can also occur on a group level whereby a cognitive model for a group and their vantage point has been developed. Knowing how your communication partners think and understand can be beneficial for relating information in a way in which it is palatable and creating shared understandings.

Shared understandings range from low to high in terms of their accuracy and quantity of information. Some may know very little about other groups while some may have a great deal of experience. This is a level of shared social theory or shared social understanding. This is generally based in familiarity, cross-communication, and reflection. Even members within the same group may have different understandings of others even though they have shared similar traits. 

 People come to understand others through default templates that are full of assumptions. As they interact with others, communicate, share experiences, and see how others act in certain situations they come to update those templates. It is a process of offering new information based within real life experience. 

Conflict is often caused by misunderstandings or unreasonable behavior. The more groups interact and share relevant information the better the decisions of the group. This process can only work if members are free to talk, share ideas, and brainstorm the possibilities. Group think occurs when individuals are not free to communicate leading to one sided vantage points and strategies. 

Over compliance to group norms, assumptions and rules creates 1.) a lack of new information, and 2.) poorer overall decisions that limit cross understanding.  Group assumptions based on heuristics create faster reactions but also limit the potential to be accurate in decision-making. Quick assumptions are regularly faulty as they are confined by a lack of available information. 

The paper brings forward concepts that may be useful to businesses that are either in the process of developing stronger teams or would like to reduce encampment within their ranks. People often choose to work with others that are similar to themselves. Each brings forward their own cognitive model based with quick heuristic platforms. As they interact with each other it broadens their ability to understand the other. When these cognitive platforms are different than other members of the same group there is pressure overtime to solidify them into shared conscious understandings (i.e. the stream of conscious). 

Huber, G. & Lewis, K. (2011). Cross-understanding and shared social theories. Academy of Management Review, 36 (2). 

Huber, G. P., & Lewis, K. 2010. Cross-understanding: Implications for group cognition and performance. Academy of Management Review, 35: 6–26.

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